Is Popful Mail (Sega CD) overrated?

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Is Popful Mail (Sega CD) overrated?

Postby jay_are » Fri Feb 07, 2014 9:32 am

Man, I just finished this game today, and I am not pleased at all.
I've heard many good things about this game (like ratings of 9/10 and 10/10)
And really, by looking at it on screenshots or just the cover, it does look like it would be true.
Actually, maybe I had higher expectations and was mislead.
The cover of the game made me think that this would be a classic or something really magical like Lunar or Zelda Alttp.
Anyone else here who hated this game?
And yes it is 2014 now, but I normally play really old games so age hasn't affected my experience.
Here's my mini review:

Graphics: 2/2
The game has good graphics and stuff! It has everything needed to make a great game.

Music: 1/2
The music in this game doesn't stand out. They do sound good, but there's nothing memorable. AND it is insanely repetitive. If they aren't masterpieces anyway, at least have different songs for different stages! The final stages and ending theme were good at least!

Gameplay: 1/2
This is what ruined everything. The idea of a platformer action RPG would be my favorite, if you didn't die unexpectedly in 2 or 3 hits every time and having to load from last saved game.
Saving is ruined. Though you can save anywhere, you will be lucky to remember to save in time before dying and losing all the money you got since last saved.
Equipment upgrades weren't very good either. I could barely afford to upgrade the only character I used.
I heard that Working Designs made this game harder, but, even without that, almost all the stages feel long, confusing and boring. AND repetitive! Once you're in an area with like 3 or 5 stages, those stages all look the same. The only reason i'm still giving this a 1 is because it is still playable and because it is a genre I like.
But without exaggeration, I got around 180 Game Overs through out the whole game.

Enjoyment: 1/2
I'm not gonna lie, the dialogue in this game is amazing!! But that's the only real quality anyone playing this game would pursue, and it's not all that much of a big deal either. Maybe for the time, but getting through this game just for that... no.
Also I did enjoy some puzzles! But those cheap deaths and boring stages... ugh.

Replay value: 1/2
This game is a remake of an older game, and it's considered the perfect version. Ouch!!!
I was looking at the PC Engine version, In that, a few things seemed better, so if I could read japanese or figure out the menus, I would give that a chance.
But I am NEVER playing the Sega CD version again.

Overall: 6/10

Funny how things are!
I happen to love this other game called Alundra 2 a big lot, yet people give THAT one bad ratings instead. No, Alundra 1 did not affect that like it did for almost everyone else.

Thanks for reading, and sorry that I hate this much beloved game.

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Re: Is Popful Mail (Sega CD) overrated?

Postby Sonic# » Fri Feb 07, 2014 2:53 pm

Note - I've never played Popful Mail, but a few of your comments reminded me of other games.

This is what ruined everything. The idea of a platformer action RPG would be my favorite, if you didn't die unexpectedly in 2 or 3 hits every time and having to load from last saved game.
Saving is ruined. Though you can save anywhere, you will be lucky to remember to save in time before dying and losing all the money you got since last saved.


This was my experience with the first Ys game, where I'd end up in a place where I was underleveled and would die quickly from hits. I didn't experience that difficulty as a negative though, perhaps because I really liked the bump-attack in general. I'm wondering whether frequent deaths in Ys (or Alundra, to a lesser extent) are a concern for you.

I happen to love this other game called Alundra 2 a big lot, yet people give THAT one bad ratings instead. No, Alundra 1 did not affect that like it did for almost everyone else.


I happen to think the best action RPG on the Playstation was Legend of Mana, and I played it without being fully committed to Secret of Mana. (I had played it, but not gotten far.) So I can understand sometimes having an unpopular opinion.
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Re: Is Popful Mail (Sega CD) overrated?

Postby Alunissage » Fri Feb 07, 2014 7:34 pm

We have it, but I've never played it. My husband started it once but found the protagonist to be really annoying (or maybe just her voice? I don't remember if this game is voiced.) Maybe we'll give it another try someday.

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Re: Is Popful Mail (Sega CD) overrated?

Postby Kizyr » Sat Feb 08, 2014 6:31 am

I actually thoroughly enjoyed it. Some aspects weren't fantastic (music was so-so), but I loved the platformer and RPG aspects of it, and the dialogue and character interactions took it over the top for me. Not sure why you ended up just using one character; I found myself switching between the three constantly depending on the part of each stage.

I played the original also (I actually have the physical Super Famicom cartridge). That was... kind of a middle-of-the-road game. The Sega CD version is definitely better. KF

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Re: Is Popful Mail (Sega CD) overrated?

Postby jay_are » Sat Feb 08, 2014 8:59 pm

Alunissage wrote:My husband started it once but found the protagonist to be really annoying (or maybe just her voice? I don't remember if this game is voiced.)

She wasn't bad at all! The dialogue is great, and her personality is fun. It reminded me a little of Lemina if she was a main character.
I actually like her design a lot too.

Kizyr wrote:but I loved the platformer and RPG aspects of it

You see, the idea is great. I will compare Popful Mail to 2 other games: Zelda 2 (NES)
and Castlevania Symphony of the Night for example did something similar...
Actually, SotN is the one that seems most similar to Popful Mail. You buy new weapons, they look different and do different things, you collect them in your inventory, and other similar things, but they really knew how to use that formula.

Besides my complaints about the broken saving system and game overs around every corner, etc,
there's also the boss battles... dear lord.
Basically, you have to use this item that temporarily protects you from ANY hit (but also makes your attacks ineffective) so that you can analyze the boss's pattern until the item runs out.
But the patterns are really really cheap and repetitive, the bosses move really quickly, and take too many hits to die. (About 30 to 50 hits)
Be prepared to heal every single time you get hit.
It's like, you accidentally touch the enemy, and you have to open the menu and eat 2 fruits.
And you better be quick about it too! Your character can take consecutive hits without the typical "blinking invincibility time" that other games give you after getting hit.
It is the unfairest of unfair. (And I've beaten Ninja Gaiden 1 on NES, a few times)
The bosses in Castlevania and Zelda 2 had more reasonable patterns than those in Popful Mail. Even Ninja Gaiden and MegaMan had. Yet I've seen many reviews claim that this game has "epic boss battles."
The boss songs are really obnoxious and hyper too.

The dialogue, as great as it may be, ALSO hurts the bosses!! Can you believe it? How did this happen?
Well, every time you enter the boss's room, you have to hear the entrance dialogue from the start.
And since you will die a lot, you will have to listen to it more times than you wish.
There is a cheap way to fix this, and that is by SAVING right after the entrance dialogue, right there when the boss is about to come at you and eat you alive. I mean, who of us would ever remember to save in the middle of a boss? I realized this late in the game. But by doing this, if you die, you dont have to hear the whole entrance dialogue all over again. Instead, there's a shorter dialogue. ("Have you come back for more?" kinda stuff)

Something ALSO to note is the armor.
I decided to test the different armors with the enemies near the shop that sells the strongest armor.
Guess what?
When you have the weakest armor equipped, an enemy can kill you in exactly 2 hits.
That makes sense cause it is the weakest armor, right? So the strongest should be able to let you take like 10 hits to kill you, right?
WRONG! Only 3 hits and you're dead, with the strongest armor in the game.
All that money spent and all that effort amount to nothing.
This game feels as if it was designed for you to level up, and that I somehow didn't know how to level up and was stuck on Lv1 the whole game. In Zelda 2, you get to level up at least. And upon dying, you didn't lose your progress to the last time you saved. And the world map had real exploration. And it had epic music.

There are even more problems. Since you need to heal a lot, you need to buy a large amount of healing items, right? Well, if you want to buy for example 99 apples, the game won't just let you choose the amount of 99 and buy it. You have to buy them 1 by 1. And every time you have to select "Buy", then the item, and then read "Thank you!". Oh my god.

10 out of 10?
9 out of 10?
Just why?
http://www.gamefaqs.com/segacd/587980-p ... il/reviews

And this game also sells for over $100 a complete copy online nowadays. People paying that much for this, is baffling. And I'm judging the game without considering that, even though I did have to pay a lot for it, or my final score would drop down to 3/10. If this game is really a 10/10 game, then Castlevania SotN would be a 35 out of 10.

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Re: Is Popful Mail (Sega CD) overrated?

Postby AkagisWhiteComet » Sat Feb 08, 2014 11:44 pm

I might be "preaching to the choir" a bit, but I'm going to say it anyway; I feel this game simply suffers from "Working Designs Hype." Plain and simple.

When Popful Mail came out people paid a good bit of notice to it. It was being published by Workings Designs, then even then well-known niche' publisher of obscured titles. It was also on the Sega CD console, which even by the time Popful Mail came out was known for it's massive shovelware library and other games with gimmicky features (FMV for instance). And finally, it was created by the same company that brought us Y's, while even though that series was somewhat obscure in 1994 a few Y's titles had been released on Sega consoles by this point and they were praised at the time. I don't have any of my old magazines anymore, but I remember this game scoring fairly well above average. I feel the graphic quality in the game is pretty good for the Sega CD actually, and a platformer such as this worked well on the console especially when compared to other platformers that did exist for the console (except Sonic CD obviously, which really wins the title as one of the best Sega CD platformers).

People are still rating it highly and it selling for higher prices used largely because of Working Designs lore. Really what Working Designs game can you think of that does sell cheap? I can't think of any off the top of my head. Myself personally I cannot stand Vay on the Sega CD and I actually gave it to a friend in the late 90s. I did not think it was a particularly good RPG. For myself the graphical quality lacked, even for a 2D overhead view game, and the initial difficulty was a bit high making it difficult to assimilate into the gameplay and overall story. However it still sells comparatively to both Lunar Silver Star and Lunar Eternal Blue on the Sega CD. Myself personally though I would not pay for what people are asking for it.

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Re: Is Popful Mail (Sega CD) overrated?

Postby LunarRaptor » Fri Dec 12, 2014 6:31 am

I know it's late to be replying to this, but I just want to hop in and point out that just about everything is overrated when it comes down to it.
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Re: Is Popful Mail (Sega CD) overrated?

Postby jay_are » Fri Dec 12, 2014 7:36 pm

LunarRaptor wrote:I know it's late to be replying to this, but I just want to hop in and point out that just about everything is overrated when it comes down to it.


Lol I personally dont mind late replies in my threads. It's been almost a year (or over 2 years if I count when I started the game exactly). My disappointment is just as strong for this game. Someone asked me about this game just yesterday too!

As far as overrated goes, sadly, for anything that exists, there's people that think that's overrated, including our Lunar series xD.

But man, games like Symphony of the Night and Super Metroid, those legitimately deserve all the praise they get.
So do you think these games are overrated too? In general, the people I know in real life that think these are overrated, are people that aren't very good at them or dont like action games in general.

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Re: Is Popful Mail (Sega CD) overrated?

Postby LunarRaptor » Sat Dec 20, 2014 7:15 am

Yes, because they're just fiction. In the grand schemes of things, they don't matter.
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Re: Is Popful Mail (Sega CD) overrated?

Postby Alunissage » Sun Dec 21, 2014 3:21 am

LunarRaptor wrote:Yes, because they're just fiction. In the grand schemes of things, they don't matter.

In the grand scheme of things nothing matters, for values of sufficiently grand. That doesn't mean the small schemes aren't worth discussing. Going the "it's just fiction, it doesn't matter" route on a videogame fan forum is rather incongruous, to put it as politely as I can. It's a put-down of other peoples' conversational interests and efforts that I find rather irritating. (Moving to the general rather than the specifics of this thread with this last comment; not trying to single you out specifically, LunarRaptor.)

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Re: Is Popful Mail (Sega CD) overrated?

Postby Shiva Indis » Mon Dec 22, 2014 8:49 pm

I like the existential angle this thread is taking, though.

Popful Mail, like all things with the potential to give people joy, is as meaningless as the rest of human endeavor. But this is no reason to despair. The only significance anything possesses is what we choose to give it. :mrgreen:

I enjoy Popful Mail, but the difficulty curve of the SegaCD version is more than I want to deal with. I've tried out a few of the many (like 5 of them) versions of the game, but the in terms of gameplay the Sega version is the most engaging. And the way this game came to be, after fan rejection of the Sister Sonic project, is pretty interesting.
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Re: Is Popful Mail (Sega CD) overrated?

Postby Kizyr » Fri Dec 26, 2014 5:53 am

Shiva Indis wrote:I enjoy Popful Mail, but the difficulty curve of the SegaCD version is more than I want to deal with. I've tried out a few of the many (like 5 of them) versions of the game, but the in terms of gameplay the Sega version is the most engaging. And the way this game came to be, after fan rejection of the Sister Sonic project, is pretty interesting.

In all these years, I never new about the whole Sister Sonic thing...

BTW, do you have any idea what the connection is between the various Popful Mail games? It seems (at least based on the Super Famicom vs. Sega CD games) it's just a few of the same protagonists and personalities, and the platformer aspects, that make both of them called Popful Mail -- and the rest has no relationship whatsoever between the two. KF

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Re: Is Popful Mail (Sega CD) overrated?

Postby Shiva Indis » Mon Dec 29, 2014 5:07 pm

I imagine Sister Sonic would have been a good game -- and short of that certainly an interesting one. In retrospect it seems like a real shame. Curse you, Falcom fanboys! :mrgreen:

Every Popful Mail version is telling the same basic story and the level design tends to be similar, but each one has a different feel. In terms of visuals, PC-88, SFC, and PCE have very cutesy character designs, while PC-98 and especially SCD have a more serious look. Cutscene layout is different in every version I've played.

In terms of gameplay, the Sega version is the only one that doesn't use that old school Falcom collision-based combat, but I've read that it cuts out some backtracking found in other versions as well. The SFC version has a different starting point, since it lets you play through Mail's first fight with Nuts.
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Re: Is Popful Mail (Sega CD) overrated?

Postby Kizyr » Tue Dec 30, 2014 2:15 am

Shiva Indis wrote:Every Popful Mail version is telling the same basic story and the level design tends to be similar, but each one has a different feel. In terms of visuals, PC-88, SFC, and PCE have very cutesy character designs, while PC-98 and especially SCD have a more serious look. Cutscene layout is different in every version I've played.

In terms of gameplay, the Sega version is the only one that doesn't use that old school Falcom collision-based combat, but I've read that it cuts out some backtracking found in other versions as well. The SFC version has a different starting point, since it lets you play through Mail's first fight with Nuts.

Wait a minute... The SFC version didn't have collision-based combat either -- the controls and combat seemed almost the same as the Sega CD version, though Tatto's attacks weren't as useless as I remember them being in the SCD one. (I'm guessing you mean the type of collision system also used in Ys -- I also just got through playing Ys I Chronicles, but that's an aside.) KF

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Re: Is Popful Mail (Sega CD) overrated?

Postby Taiyaki » Fri Mar 27, 2015 11:36 pm

I really like Popful Mail. Not sure it's so overrated now a days, back then it was sort of a hidden gem I would say.

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Re: Is Popful Mail (Sega CD) overrated?

Postby Ardent Fox » Sat Mar 28, 2015 1:11 pm

To be fair, this was 1991, when they'd give good reviews to a toilet if it had decent interactivity.

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Re: Is Popful Mail (Sega CD) overrated?

Postby Taiyaki » Mon Mar 30, 2015 9:03 pm

Now it days it would get good reviews without being interactive at all. lol
Gamovies are more and more common and people love them. :)

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Re: Is Popful Mail (Sega CD) overrated?

Postby nadiaff » Thu Apr 16, 2015 9:28 am

It'll probably always be one of my favorite games, but the gameplay was atrocious. This was the game that taught me how to swear and also how to throw my controller across the room.

I recently got the SFC version and tried playing it on the Retron 5. I just don't have the patience to struggle through it like I did when I was 13.

But man, I memorized lines from that game. Sven T. Uncommon and Venuncio are still very fond memories. I think at one point, during my younger years, I actually sat down and transcribed all of the audio dialog into text. I can't remember what possessed me to do this but it took a really long time. I probably still have that file somewhere.

Man, I was a weird kid.

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Re: Is Popful Mail (Sega CD) overrated?

Postby jay_are » Thu Apr 16, 2015 7:02 pm

nadiaff wrote: I can't remember what possessed me to do this but

Hahaha, that's the natural will to develop talents!

nadiaff wrote:Sven T. Uncommon and Venuncio are still very fond memories

That's what I liked most about the game!

nadiaff wrote:This was the game that taught me how to swear and also how to throw my controller across the room.

You see?? That's how I felt. Being frustrated enough to do that is not entertaining.
I've played really difficult games from Arcades and NES, and yet this game... ughhhh.
That's partly Working Designs' fault too if my info is correct. They made the game more difficult and gave the enemies more hits to kill. I like difficulty, but that's just broken gameplay to me, not a challenge. I have to time my hits too perfectly to kill an enemy, and they have long invincibility time in between hits. But the player has almost no invincibility time and you die in like 2 hits. Imagine having to heal after each single hit you take?

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Re: Is Popful Mail (Sega CD) overrated?

Postby Leo » Fri Apr 17, 2015 5:21 am

Alunissage wrote:
LunarRaptor wrote:Yes, because they're just fiction. In the grand schemes of things, they don't matter.

In the grand scheme of things nothing matters, for values of sufficiently grand. That doesn't mean the small schemes aren't worth discussing. Going the "it's just fiction, it doesn't matter" route on a videogame fan forum is rather incongruous, to put it as politely as I can. It's a put-down of other peoples' conversational interests and efforts that I find rather irritating. (Moving to the general rather than the specifics of this thread with this last comment; not trying to single you out specifically, LunarRaptor.)


I'm not sure if the world needs to try to forget this or if the world needs to try to keep it in mind.


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